“I think I’m stealing this line from Kathy Griffin, but we all need to find the strong black woman inside of us and set her free.” Scott Paulson offers this in response to a question about the score he wrote as a modern soundtrack for Josephine Baker’s 1927 silent-film classic Siren of the Tropics.
In May, the UCSD Arts Library outreach coordinator and multi-instrumentalist was selected to perform his Tropics soundtrack at the Black France Film Festival in Paris. “I was excited to have been picked back then,” says Paulson, “because of the incidents that were going on at the time at UCSD.” (A ghetto-themed party planned by UCSD students called the Compton Cookout drew statewide criticism in February.)
At the Paris festival, Paulson performed with his own Teeny Tiny Pit Orchestra, including San Diegan Gene Perry on percussion and pianist Andrew Infanti. The TTPO has performed thusly behind many other silent-era films in and around San Diego, with a rotating cast of local musicians. An instrumentalist-conductor, Paulson has perfected obscure instruments such as the theremin and a strip of metal called a thunder sheet. He describes his own performance as “channeling Jerry Lewis.” He enlists the aid of audience members by giving them various noisemakers — things such as bulb horns and coconuts.
The classically trained symphony oboist is known for his musical eccentricities. September 12 and 13, for example, Paulson will host the Tenth Annual Toy Piano Festival at UCSD’s Geisel Library with Sue Palmer as one of the festival performers.